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If in addition to loving wristwatches you’re also an outdoors enthusiast, the chances are that you have come across the term “ABC watch”.
And if you haven’t, let us tell you that it has not much to do with the alphabet.
ABC watch is a type of timepiece equipped with three sensors that are essential during outdoor adventures. “A” stands for altimeter, “B” for barometer, and “C” for a compass. The inclusion of all three helps you navigate your way and predict the unpredictable, such as incoming storms or sudden changes of altitude during your trek.
Whether you’re a hiker, hunter or mountain biker, a reliable ABC timepiece should be topping your shopping list. Apart from offering the three sensors, these watches are also built to last and thrive in challenging environments. The vast majority of them come with scratch-resistant faces, easy-to-clean construction and impressive water resistance.
In the last few years, the watchmaking industry has been moving away from the classic ABC wristwatches as people get more and more reliable on smart wearables.
However, that’s not to say all of us crave ABC smartwatches. Some stay loyal to the good, old days and prefer the more simple solutions.
Not to discriminate against anyone, in today’s article, we will help you select the best ABC watch by reviewing best-selling products from both product categories.
Best ABC Watches (Top 3 Reviewed)
1. Garmin Instinct
As things stand, Garmin is the go-to brand for feature-rich and robust outdoor smartwatches.
Despite being in the market for nearly 4 years already, it’s still impossible to find an ABC smartwatch providing better value than Garmin Instinct.
Garmin smartwatches are jam-packed with essential features and applications that not only provide you with fantastic insights into your adventures but also everyday well-being. Even when compared to Garmin’s more expensive releases, the Instinct model has nothing to be embarrassed about in this regard.
Naturally, the smartwatch offers all 3 sensors of an ABC watch. Without draining the battery too much, the Instinct’s altimeter helps you track elevation data, the barometer monitors weather conditions and the three-axis compass feeds you with clues of your surroundings.
Furthermore, should you decide to use a more modern and user-friendly navigation system, Garmin Instinct is equipped with a GPS. Like all Garmin smartwatches, Instinct operates on Multi-GNSS support. In other words, the Instinct has access to multiple global navigation satellite systems in the form of GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. Such a setup means the watch can give you precise data in more challenging environments.
Apart from excellent navigational capabilities, Instinct has also a lot to offer in terms of everyday health-tracking. Amongst others, it offers:
- wrist-based 24/7 heart rate (includes abnormal HR alerts)
- blood oxygen monitor (available with the Solar version of Instinct)
- sleep quality tracker
- 24/7 stress tracker (with relaxation reminders)
Another excellent app that deserves a mention is the Body Battery Energy Monitor. It allows you to regulate your own energy resources 24/7. You can observe how activities and lifestyle choices affect your condition by combining the effects of physical activity, stress, relaxation, and the restorative power of sleep in one spot.
Also, we can’t overlook the presence of pre-programmed sport modes. If you’re into weight lifting, jogging, yoga or biking, you will have access to extremely detailed insights into your performance.
Last but not least, Garmin Instinct is compatible with both Android and iOS smartphones.
The durability aspect is so important when it comes to ABC watches. The watch is constructed to U.S. military standard 810G for heat, shock, and water resistance (up to 100m), so it can definitely take a pounding.
A 45mm casing made of fiber-reinforced polymer and silicone strap contributes to the all-black manly style. Chemically reinforced display glass provides robust protection against cracks and scratches.
There’s no doubt that smartwatches can be extremely useful devices. However, their Achilles heel has always been the less-than-impressive battery life.
In this aspect, Garmin wearables hold a clear advantage over competitors.
In the regular smartwatch mode, Garmin Instinct can reach even 2 weeks on a single charge. If your expedition requires you to switch to the GPS mode, the model can easily perform for 16 hours which is really impressive.
For the best battery performance, consider getting the Solar version of Instinct. Powered by any light, Instinct Solar basically never runs out of fuel.
2. Casio Rangeman GW-9400
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with opting for a regular, some might say old-school, ABC wristwatch. When it comes to these, Casio G-Shocks take some beating!
In our opinion, the model providing the best value at present is the bullet-proof Rangeman. Not without a reason, it was also featured in our list of Best G-Shocks for Military Personnel.
As things stand, we think it’s the best Casio ABC watch.
Most importantly, the Rangeman GW-9400 model is an excellent ABC watch. Apart from being equipped with an altimeter, barometer and digital compass, it also has a thermometer.
The timepiece utilizes Casio’s Tough Solar technology, meaning it’s powered by any form of light.
Multiband 6 is another feature that makes the Rangeman an excellent timepiece for adventure. The technology allows your watch to automatically sync with local transmitters, providing unbeatable accuracy regardless of your location. The transmitters utilized by Casio are situated in the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and China.
Akin to many G-Shock models, this one also comes with the World Time feature that allows you to manually select from 31 time zones.
Other useful functions that certainly deserve a mention are:
- sunrise & sunset time display
- 1/100-second stopwatch
- countdown timer
- 5 daily alarms
- full auto-calendar
Casio G-Shocks are some of the toughest watches on the planet and the Rangeman line is no exception to the rule.
The watch comes with a typical for G-Shocks oversized case measuring 53mm in diameter. Its raised edges boost the watch’s protection against cracks and scratches. The case is made from stainless steel while the band is plastic. Rangeman’s dial window is made from scratch-resistant mineral glass.
Cylindrical buttons provide excellent functioning and increased impact resistance. A metal cover protects the commonly used sensor button from lateral impact and keeps foreign materials out.
Thanks to being mud-, shock- and water resistance (up to 200m), the Rangeman series is certainly ready for any type of adventure.
Probably one of the biggest advantages regular wristwatches hold over smartwatches is that they don’t need to be constantly plugged in for charging.
In the case of Rangeman, the battery lifespan looks even better as the watch is solar-powered. Thanks to the Tough Solar technology, the timepiece can work up to 8 months without exposure to any light. With regular use/wear, it’s pretty much impossible to ever run out of fuel.
As a result, we think the model is the best solar ABC watch offered by Casio in this price range.
3. Suunto Core
If the two models discussed above require you to break the bank, Suunto Core is an excellent alternative unlikely to let you down during your treks.
As things stand, we think it’s the best budget ABC watch in the market.
Although at first glance the Suunto Core model might resemble a smartwatch, it’s actually a regular wristwatch with a digital display.
Because of that, the timepiece isn’t equipped with a GPS but instead comes with a manual compass. Supported by an altimeter and barometer, the watch is indeed a great companion for outdoor activities and was featured in our latest list of Top Suunto Watches for Hiking.
The Storm Alarm and Sunrise/Sunset timings are two features that outdoor enthusiasts will also appreciate.
Other features that probably deserve a mention are:
- 1 daily alarm
- dual time function
- countdown timer
Suunto Core is, without a doubt, providing solid durability standards for an ABC watch in this price range.
The timepiece comes with a 49mm case made from composite. Suunto Core has a metal bezel and an elastomer strap. Mineral crystal glass protects the watch from cracks and scratches.
The waterproofing in the Core model isn’t quite as amazing. The watch can endure up to 30 meters of pressure. However, even heavy rain during your excursion should not represent a significant danger of harm.
Hassle-free use after dusk is ensured by electro-luminescent backlight.
A user-replaceable battery is included with the Suunto Core model. The battery lasts around a year on average.
ABC Watches: Alternatives
If for whatever reason none of the top 3 ABC watches appeals to you, below find as many as 8 alternative picks that should also do the job.
4. Casio PRG-270-1
Opening up the list of alternative ABC watch models is another (and definitely not the last!) timepiece from Casio. The PRG-270-1 model you see above belongs to Casio’s Pro Trek collection designed particularly with adventure seekers in mind.
Naturally, the timepiece is equipped with all three ABC sensors and additionally comes with a thermometer.
Characteristically for a Casio watch, the model is constructed to withstand a lot. The whole body is made from resin. The case measures 53mm in diameter and features a raised bezel that helps protect the mineral glass from damage. The timepiece features three pushers responsible for switching between altimeter, barometer, and compass modes.
Other useful features offered by this model include:
- 5 daily alarms
- full auto-calendar until 2099
- countdown timer
Similar to the Rangeman model we discussed above, Pro Trek PRG-270-1 utilizes Casio’s Tough Solar technology, meaning it’s powered by any form of light and never runs out of fuel. It’s also shock-, low temperature- and water-resistant (up to 100m). Easy reading after dusk is provided by Casio’s backlight with the afterglow effect.
The watch comes with the World Time feature that allows you to pick from 31 time zones (48 cities), ensuring excellent accuracy with a single push of a button wherever you are. Like all Casio models, this one is powered by Japanese quartz movement with an accuracy of +/- 15 seconds/month.
5. Casio PRG-600YB
Next up we have the second Casio model from the much-loved amongst outdoor enthusiasts Pro-Trek collection.
With the green cloth strap and large, busily-arranged dial, Casio PRG-600YB is an excellent choice for those who appreciate the military-styled design.
Measuring 52mm in diameter, the case is slightly smaller than in the above-discussed Casio timepieces. The casing is made from resin while the bezel, featuring abbreviations for cities indicating different time zones, is made from stainless steel. Just like the Rangeman model, the watch features a screw-lock crown that ensures excellent protection against moisture damage. Shielding the face from cracks and scratches is mineral crystal glass.
This ProTrek model is a 3-sensor timepiece, meaning it offers reliable altimeter, barometer, and compass readings. It also has a thermometer.
Another cool feature that certainly deserves a mention is the auto hand home position correction. The watch also offers:
- daily alarms (5)
- countdown timer
- 1/100-second stopwatch
- World Time (29 cities)
Akin to the previous two Casio timepieces on the list, it’s powered by light. The Tough Solar technology ensures battery fuel for up to 9 months without any exposure to light which effectively means it’s impossible for the watch to die during your adventures.
On the accuracy front, the Japanese quartz movement shouldn’t lose or gain more than 15 seconds/month.
Excellent legibility in a dark environment is provided by a double LED light: one for the face and one for the digital display.
Last but not least, the watch is resistant to shocks, water (up to 100m) and low temperature.
6. Avtrek Apache
All six products discussed to this point come from brands that you’re probably familiar with. We’re pretty sure this is the first time you’re coming across this one!
Despite being pretty much anonymous compared to all the top sharks of the industry, Avtrek watches constantly score positive reviews from users who appreciate the presence of ABC watch features at extremely low price margins.
The altimeter, barometer and digital compass are all on board, as is the weather forecast function.
Additionally, the watch is equipped with a pedometer and calories counter. This makes many people mistake the product for a smartwatch which it is not. Other useful features you might want to be aware of include:
- countdown timer
- 12/24h time format
Moving on to the durability aspect, the 50mm case is made from stainless steel. Unfortunately, the acrylic lens installed in this model isn’t as solid a choice in terms of protection against scratches. Considering the cost, however, it’s nothing we can complain about, really.
On the waterproofing front, the watch can withstand a pressure of up to 50m.
7. LAD Weather
If you’re not shy of trying alternative ABC watch brands, LAD Weather is the next budget option providing further food for thought.
LAD Weather watches have been around for more than a decade and are a result of collaboration between outdoor watch enthusiasts from the United States and Japan.
As things stand, the model you see above is the brand’s best-seller and is available in a few design variations. Apart from the one we listed here, there are also versions with non-negative displays and different bezel colors. You can check them here.
Crucially, the watch offers all three sensors you’re after (altimeter, barometer, compass) and also a thermometer with a weather forecast feature. On top of this, it’s equipped with:
- daily alarm
Appearance-wise, the watch is considerably smaller than all ABC timepieces discussed so far. The plastic case has a diameter of 45mm and a stainless steel caseback. The watch has a polyurethane strap. Similar to the Avtrek model above, the dial window is made from acrylic which is far from the most scratchproof material out there. Again, at that price it’s hard to expect anything better.
Last but not least, the watch is water-resistant up to 30m which effectively means it’s splashproof. While getting caught in the rain on your expedition might not be an issue, swimming sessions aren’t recommended.
All in all, it might be the best ABC watch under 100 bucks.
8. Amazfit T-Rex
From now on, today’s list of the best ABC watches will be dominated by smartwatch models.
If the name “Amazfit” doesn’t ring a bell, don’t worry. The Huami brand which owns Amazfit definitely doesn’t carry a mainstream tag in the US and Europe yet. However, it’s one of the more appreciated smartwatch manufacturers in Asia. Huami is behind the production of many of the smart wearables from the Chinese mogul Xiaomi.
Amazfit smartwatches, especially the newly-released T-Rex you see above, are known for providing excellent value for money both in terms of features and rugged construction. It’s no wonder then that T-Rex is a great option to consider if you’re on the lookout for an ABC watch with smart functions.
On top of offering the combination of altimeter, barometer and compass, the smartwatch is equipped with highly reliable GPS. The GPS function is delivered by Sony and uses a dual-satellite positioning system in the form of GPS and GLONASS.
A weather forecast, event reminders, phone reminders, app notifications are just a few of the smart features available on the Amazfit T-Rex, providing a number of useful tools to help you get through your day.
When it comes to health-tracking features, the fact that the smartwatch offers 24/7 heart rate monitoring can’t go unnoticed. T-Rex also provides you with great insights into your sleep patterns. And, if you’re into sports, you will appreciate the presence of 14 pre-loaded workout modes.
Perhaps one of the standout characteristics of T-Rex is the outstanding battery lifespan that can reach up to 20 days.
As far as the durability standards are concerned, T-Rex is in no way inferior to other ABC watches discussed in the article. In fact, its rugged construction has as many as 12 military-grade certifications.
The whole body, including the 48mm case, is made from highly damage-resistant polymer. Solid protection against screen damage is provided by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 which is one of the go-to types amongst popular smartwatch manufacturers. Additionally, the glass is sprayed with an anti-fingerprint coating, ensuring excellent legibility.
Last but not least, the watch is water-resistant up to 50m.
9. Garmin Fenix 6x Solar
Garmin Fenix 6X Solar is arguably one of the finest alternatives out there if you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly wristwatch with an almost unrivaled number of apps and a tough-to-beat construction.
Be prepared to break the bank, though!
Obviously, the altimeter, barometer, and compass sensors are on board. And so is the ultra-reliable navigation system which utilizes data from three satellites – GPS, GLONASS and Galileo. Safe to say, the chances of you getting lost during your expedition are next to zero.
The Fenix model is also arguably the most jammed in terms of health-tracking apps. Amongst many, you can enjoy the perks of the following:
- 24/7 heart rate monitor (with abnormal HR alerts)
- 24/7 respiration rate
- Sp02 monitor
- 24/7 stress tracking
- sleep quality tracking
- preloaded sport modes
The model is also the only ABC smartwatch on today’s list that allows for contactless payments via the Garmin Pay app.
The watch is quite tough, as you’d expect from Garmin. At the same time, its all-black style and a round case with a finely polished bezel make it very appealing to the eye.
Garmin Fenix is available in three sizes: 42mm (the most popular among women), 47mm (the best option for men with medium wrists), and 51mm (the most popular among men with big wrists).
The model is even more robust because of the metal rear cover on the fiber-reinforced polymer casing, which aids in shock absorption. You have two options for the bezel: titanium or titanium with a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coating. You may pick between a silicone band and a titanium bracelet.
Fenix 6X Pro Solar is built to US military standards. Extreme temperatures, shock, and water resistance (10 ATM/100m) are all features of the watch.
Finally, the model is one of the highest-performing products in the market in terms of battery life. It can reach even 4 months when fully charged. As a result, it was featured on our list of Smartwatches With Longest Battery Life.
There are many excellent Garmin ABC watches. However, looking at the overall picture, Fenix 6X is probably the best solar-powered ABC watch you can currently get.
10. Casio G-Shock Move
Casio G-Shocks are the epitome of toughness and reliability in any conditions.
Since the release of the first G-Shock model in 1983, the collection has gained a reputation as one of the toughest watches available to mankind. All that was missing were more modern features that could match the fast-paced development of the industry.
Well, that was the case until 2020 when Casio gave birth to their first hybrid smartwatch – G-Shock Move.
Since the launch day, the Move collection has proved to be a massive hit, especially amongst the brand’s aficionados. Without a doubt, it also ticks all the boxes for an excellent ABC watch.
Most of the G-Shock move models, including the GBD-H1000-8CR you see above, are 5-sensor watches. Apart from the altimeter, barometer and compass functions, these watches are also equipped with an accelerometer and heart rate monitor. The presence of an accelerometer naturally means the watch comes with a GPS function. And with that, you can also track your steps, distance traveled, and pace.
The GPS offered by G-Shock move watches is ultra-reliable as it utilizes data from three satellites – GPS, GLONASS, and Michibiki.
All the data you collect during your everyday tasks and workouts can be comfortably viewed on your phone. The G-Shock move app is available for free for Android and iPhone users.
Although the Move collection is by far the most feature-packed offered by Casio at this point, that doesn’t mean a drop in durability standards – not at all! The great thing about the Move line is that it blends the unrivaled toughness of G-Shock watches with smartwatch-like perks.
The model comes with an oversized 55mm resin case and a resin band. The raised bezel certainly adds an extra layer of protection for the mineral crystal dial window. Like any other G-Shock, the Move is shock-resistant. It also offers excellent protection against water damage (up to 200m) and extreme temperatures.
While reading the negative display during night expeditions, to the rescue comes the LED backlight.
Last but not least, the timepiece is solar-powered which basically rules out the risk of coming to a halt during your adventures.
11. Nixon Regulus Expedition
Closing the list of the best ABC watches is Nixon Regulus Expedition – a fashionable watch designed for those seeking adventure in style!
The watch’s design is very characteristic of the sporty-themed Nixon watches.
But its functions are not – it’s just one of few Nixon models that offer altimeter, barometer, and compass. Additionally, the Regulus is equipped with a thermometer with weather alerts. Hence, the “Expedition” tag.
Other functions worth pointing out include:
- runs tracker
- dual time zones in 12 or 24 hr. format
In terms of the design, what helps the watch stand out from other products on the list is the rectangular case shape. The case is made from injection-molded TR-90 material and included a slightly raised stainless steel bezel. Protecting the digital display from scratches is mineral crystal glass. The watch has a silicone strap.
The high-resolution MLCD screen technology ensures clear readability in any light.
On the waterproofing front, the model is able to withstand a pressure of up to 100m.
Picking the Best ABC Wristwatch: Buying Guide
Woah! That was probably the most detailed “best of” list we’ve covered on Timepieceking thus far.
But it was well worth it – ABC watches are amazing tools that can help you navigate through really challenging environments. And they probably deserve more attention than they’re currently getting.
To maximize the chances of helping you find the best value ABC watch, we’ve reviewed as many as 11 models. However, we’re well aware that there’s no accounting for taste and just because we’re huge fans of all the timepieces on the list, doesn’t mean you are too!
Thus, we’ve also prepared a quick-to-grasp Buying Guide that will help you pick the best ABC watch on your own.
ABC Watch: Things To Look Out For
We already know that an ABC watch, at the very least, should offer reliable altimeter, barometer and compass readings. However, as useful as these are, they shouldn’t be the only metrics you look out for.
While browsing for the best ABC watch, pay attention to:
The outdoor environment can be much more challenging than you’d think. Hence, a proper ABC watch needs to be up to scratch in terms of its durability.
a) Glass – the first thing you’d like to make sure of is a reliable glass. The dial window is the most damage-prone part of any watch. Not only is a cracked glass hard on the eyes but it can also cause serious damage to the movement, ie. when moisture gets inside the watch.
Try to go for watches equipped with at least a mineral crystal glass. ABC watches under 100 bucks might be very tempting but most of the time they come with acrylic (plastic) glass which is not as reliable. The best glass you can aim for is sapphire but these models usually carry hefty price tags. For tips on how to choose the right glass for your ABC watch, read our Guide to Watch Crystals.
b) Case – while you need to be a bit fussy when choosing between glass types, the majority of case materials are okay. Whether you get a timepiece with stainless steel, resin, or plastic casing, it should serve you just fine. As an additional requirement, you can make sure the caseback is screwed down which helps protect the watch from any water damage.
c) Strap – all strap materials are fine except one. While there’s no point arguing that leather bands are classy-looking, they’re a better fit for offices and social gatherings. Leather straps are the least durable and can wear off quickly when frequently used in more challenging conditions. Opt for stainless steel, rubber, or plastic bands.
d) Water resistance – ABC watches don’t have to offer as solid protection against water as dive watches. With that said, they should be at least splashproof. At the minimum, make sure the watch has a water resistance of 3ATM (30m). Ideally, consider models with a 50m-100m rating.
e) Extra aids – the longevity of your ABC watch can be further boosted with shock resistance. If you’re likely to use it in extreme temperatures, low or high-temperature resistance is also advised.
While the durability aspect is probably the most crucial, you can’t forget about the importance of the looks. After all, wearing your ABC watch should be a pleasant and proud experience and not another burden.
Aim for watches that fit your own style. On top of that, take into consideration the sizing and weight. A good watch should be so light it makes you forget you’re even wearing it!
Are you a person with a slender wrist? Try to avoid largely oversized cases as they will look a bit odd and feel heavy. Alternatively, if your wrist is quite massive, opt for larger models.
Do you prefer watches with digital or analog displays? Ones with round or rectangular cases? These are just a couple of many questions you can ask yourself before proceeding with the purchase.
Apart from the obvious presence of the altimeter, barometer, and compass sensors, other perks might be welcome depending on your own needs and expectations.
People into their everyday well-being should probably consider ABC smartwatches instead of regular wristwatches. These come with a variety of health-tracking apps from basic ones such as heart rate monitor to more advanced such as ECG reader or Blood Oxygen monitor.
Those who are into fitness and various sports disciplines should probably get a multisport watch.
Are you a heavy sleeper? Make sure the watch has a vibrating alarm.
Best ABC Watches: FAQ
Finally, to cover the subject in full, below find some of the more popular questions raised by people looking for the best ABC watch.
What Is an ABC Watch?
The “ABC” stands for altimeter, barometer, and compass, as previously indicated. All three components need to be on board for watches in this category. Many of these timepieces are digital and may be powered by either a lithium battery or solar energy.
How Do ABC Watches Work?
The current absolute pressure and mean sea level pressure are the two metrics measured by your ABC watch. There is a link between the pair, which is why it is critical to establish a baseline to assure accurate results.
This is why, to get the most accurate reading, you should always calibrate your watch for a certain altitude and recalibrate it on a regular basis.
In short, this is the process:
- The current air pressure will be measured by a pressure sensor in your altimeter.
- After then, based on the altitude, the measured air pressure offers an estimated value.
- The watch has been programmed to translate pre-programmed pressure values into altitude readings.
- As you climb higher in height, the air pressure and temperature drop.
- The decreased air pressure is then used to calculate altitude, which accurately evaluates your altitude.
How Accurate Is the Altimeter & Barometer Data?
When it comes to varying levels of accuracy, all of the models in our top 10 comparison guide have received positive customer feedback. We recommend sticking with one of the more well-known brands, such as Suunto, Garmin, or Casio (all reviewed in our Top 3 section).
The three companies have a small monopoly on these items and have invested a significant amount of time and money to guarantee that their devices produce some of the most accurate readings available. The frequency with which you calibrate your watch will affect the accuracy of your readings, too.
How Accurate Is the Compass Data?
Magnetic sensor technology is used in digital compasses to detect differences in the earth’s magnetic field. As a result, there may be minor differences in true and magnetic north, although they are normally as accurate as a non-digital compass.
Digital compass readings develop along with technology. Most prominent watchmakers have spent time refining the accuracy of readings of the compass inside each watch, similar to how they have perfected the altitude and barometer values.
What Was the First ABC Watch?
Casio introduced the first commercially accessible ABC watches in 1989. The original ABC watch was a digital model with an Electric Barometer, Altimeter, and Bathometer. This was an early prototype, and it pales in comparison to some of the most technologically sophisticated ones available today.
Does Altimeter Watch Equal ABC Watch?
In a word, no! Watches with an altimeter always come in pairs with a barometer but a compass is far from a given.
Whether you need an ABC watch or simply an altimeter watch depends on how you plan to use it. You know best whether a compass is a necessity!
What’s the Best GPS Watch Without Phone?
If you’re on the lookout for the best ABC smart watch that can work without being connected to your phone, you need to make sure it offers Cellular / LTE support.
You can explore such models by clicking here.
Digital or Analog ABC Watch?
Both types can deliver equally reliable altimeter/barometer/compass readings. However, digital timepieces are generally a bit easier to read.
Get the type you fancy the most both in terms of looks and legibility.
If we were to pick the best digital ABC watch from today’s list, it would probably be the Casio Rangeman. When it comes to the analog, Pro-Trek PRG-600YB gets our vote as it’s the sole model of this type.